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Florida Lawmakers Advance Bill To Block Transgender Athletes From Competing In Women's, Girls' School Sports

A bill to effectively ban transgender athletes from competing in girls’ or women’s school sports past its first committee stop.
A bill to effectively ban transgender athletes from competing in girls’ or women’s school sports past its first committee stop.

Transgender athletes would effectively be banned from playing in girls' or women's school sports under a bill moving forward in the Florida legislature. LGBTQ advocates say the proposal is harmful to transgender youth.

The bill would require K-12 and college sports teams to divide students based on what the bill calls "biological sex." Right now, the Florida High School Athletic Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association have policies in place to accommodate transgender athletes. This bill would preempt those policies in Florida. So, if a transgender woman wanted to compete, she'd have to do so on a men's team.

Brandon Wolf works for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group. He says the bill is dangerous and damaging to the transgender community:

“Florida High School Athletics Association has had guidelines around transgender athletes for almost a decade with zero incidents since implementing those guidelines, and so the question right now is why is this a priority for lawmakers?"

That's something Rep. Susan Valdes (D-Tampa) wonders about as well. She asked bill sponsor Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-Sebring) for an explanation during a recent committee meeting:

"Representative Tuck, can you point to a specific example of a student in Florida being meaningfully harmed by the participation of [a] transgender athlete in our school sports?"

Tuck answered that she wasn't aware of any Florida-specific cases.

"But we're aware of cases in other states—Connecticut, Idaho, for example. And we shouldn't wait until there is a problem to have a policy," Tuck says.

According to the Associated Press, there's a lawsuit in Connecticut aimed at stopping two young transgender women from competing on their high school's track team. According to the lawsuit, the pair have won a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017. An NPR report says last year Idaho passed a similar proposal into law, but a federal judge later blocked it.

According to Freedom for All Americans, an LGBTQ advocacy group, 23 similar proposals have been filed in other states this year.

Tuck maintains her bill isn't supposed to be discriminatory.

"This act is to protect the integrity of women's and girls' sports by ensuring that biological women and girls are able to compete on a level playing field and enjoy all the benefits that come along with competing in sports without fear that they have to compete against biological males that have inherent athletic advantages," Tuck says.

"I think it's a façade," Jesse Jones says. He spoke against Tuck's bill during a public comment period in its first committee meeting. "I think it's just a way to try to put it under the guise of women's rights to discriminate further a more alienated section of our society."

Jones says he has a transgender daughter.

"And I don't want laws to discriminate against her ability to do whatever she wants to do in life. If she wants to play sports, I don't want them to decide that she needs to play with who she does not identify with—I don't think that's right," Jones says.

If there is a dispute about a student's sex, Tuck's bill would require the school to resolve the issue. The student would have to submit a health examination and statement from their healthcare provider that verifies their sex. That verification would have to be based on the student's reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup, or testosterone levels. A staff analysis says the bill doesn't prohibit women from participating in men's teams.

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